TBR Challenge: The Hidden Heart by Gayle Buck

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Unrequited love: The Earl of Walmesley does the unthinkable. He asks a dear friend to risk her reputation to save him from a matrimonial trap. Lady Caroline Eddingotn has always loved Miles Trilby. She would do anything for him. But – enter into a false betrothal? She is mad to agree. She risks more than her place in society. She risks her heart.

Rating: D+

I often find myself reaching for a Traditional Regency when it comes to the “Sweet or Spicy” prompt.  Most of the romances I read these days contain sex scenes, so I tend to interpret the “spicy” part of the prompt to mean something beyond that, like erotica or erotic romance, and I don’t have anything from either genre on my TBR – hence my gravitating to the “sweet” side of the prompt.

The Hidden Heart was originally published by Signet in 1992, and is billed as a fake-relationship story wherein the hero, Miles, Earl of Walmesley (who is, for some reason also referred to throughout as Lord Trilby which confused me at first, as I thought the author was talking about two different characters!), needing to forestall his imposing great aunt’s plans to wed him to a young lady he has never met, asks his best friend, Lady Caroline Eddington, to pose as his betrothed for the duration of his aunt’s upcoming visit. Lady Caroline has – of course – been in love with Miles for years, but has abandoned any hope of anything more than friendship, while Miles is  – also of course – completely oblivious to her feelings.  Caroline is a great heroine, but overall, The Hidden Heart was a bit of a disappointment.  Caro and Miles spend very little time together on the page, and the romance is practically non-existent; in fact, it feels as though the author got to the end of the book and thought “Oh no! I forgot to get Caro and Miles together – I’ve got a couple of pages left, so I’ll do it now!”

When Miles initially asks Caro to act as his fiancée during his great aunt, the Grand-duchess of Schaffenzeits’ visit, she turns him down, fully cognizant of the detrimental effect such a thing could have on her reputation if it’s ever discovered.  Miles does realise he’s asking a lot (but he asks anyway) and isn’t completely surprised by his friend’s refusal – but when the duchess arrives early, he asks again – and this time Caro, in a moment of weakness engendered by the continual and highly unpleasant sniping of her aunt and the importuning of an unwanted and far too persistent suitor (who can’t understand that no means no) agrees to help Miles out.

The predictability of the story is countered somewhat by the character of Caro, who does not waste her time pining for Miles or allow herself to be bullied by her aunt.  She is cool and capable most of the time, able to squash her aunt’s pretentions and turn her barbed remarks back on her with poise and ease, even though it’s clear that she does find her presence difficult to deal with at times; in fact, watching Caro deal with her aunt was one of the things I enjoyed most about the book!  I also liked the fact that the author doesn’t turn Caro’s new sister-in-law into a complete bitch who wants Caro out of the house because she doesn’t want any competition.  The Grand-duchess is a wily grande dame, but Miles himself is poorly characterised and is actually hardly present in the story.  He failed to make much of an impression on me; all I really knew about him was that he had a reputation for being a bit irresponsible, and that he’s being pretty selfish when he asks Caro to pretend to be engaged to him.  When he and Caro do finally fall into each other’s arms at the end of the book, he spins her a yarn about how seeing a friend destroyed by love caused him to never want to experience it and then uses that to explain why he never showed any sign of feeling more for Caro than friendship, it was utterly ridiculous and came completely out of nowhere.  I suppose Caroline got what she wanted in the end, but no way was Miles good enough for her.

TL:DR. The Hidden Heart was a dud.  I liked the heroine, but pretty much everyone else –including the hero – was awful.  There are better Trads out there than this one.

Cold Conspiracy (Eagle Mountain Murder Mystery: Winter Storm Wedding #3) by Cindi Myers

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

The body count is mounting.

And a deputy is the killer’s next target.

Capturing the Ice Cold Killer is the greatest challenge Eagle Mountain has ever seen. Thankfully, Deputy Jamie Douglas is determined to see justice done. Nate Hall is visiting for a wedding, and the vacationing lawman is more than willing to help. As a blizzard ravages the town, keeping everyone trapped with a killer, evidence begins to accumulate about a mysterious conspiracy. Can Jamie and Nate get to the truth before more innocent people wind up dead?

Rating: D+

When I first started reviewing for All About Romance, I reviewed mostly historical romance – which has always been my favourite genre – and added in the odd romantic suspense title here and there for a bit of variety.  These days I read a lot more RS, although most of it is m/m, as I have found only a small number of authors (Loreth Anne White and Rachel Grant, to name but two) who can successfully (and consistently) combine both romance and suspense into a satisfying m/f story without compromising on either element. I suspect the prevalence – in m/m – of series with long running story arcs which allow for more plot and romantic development may have something to do with that, but whatever the reason, that’s my precursor to saying that much of the m/f romantic suspense I read these days isn’t particularly romantic or suspenseful, and  Cold Conspiracy by Cindi Myers is yet another example of RS-fail.

It’s the third book in the Eagle Mountain Murder Mystery: Winter Storm Wedding series, and the suspense plot centres around the search for a serial killer who is targeting young women and who leaves a calling card on each victim with the words “Ice Cold” printed on it.  I haven’t read the previous two books in the series, but in this one, the community of Eagle Mountain is cut off due to heavy snow, and while it’s believed that the main suspects in the murders had left before the roads had to be closed, the discovery of a new victim shows that not to be the case.

Sheriff’s deputy Jamie Douglas and her younger sister Donna are driving home when they come across a car stopped at the side of the road.  Jamie – who is off duty – is reluctant to stop, given there’s a murderer at large, but Donna is adamant that they must, so they backtrack and discover the Ice Cold Killer’s latest victim – the sixth – laid back in her car seat, her throat cut.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

Her Steadfast Hero/Her Devoted Hero (Black Dawn #1 & #2) by Caitlyn O’Leary (audiobook) – Narrated by Aiden Snow

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Her Steadfast Hero (Book 1)

When the hospital is overrun by the most brutal of convicts that escaped during the earthquake, and an American doctor is held for ransom, the Navy SEAL unit Black Dawn is called in. Can David Sloane and Black Dawn rescue Dr. Carys Adams before it is too late? Through all the turmoil will David and Sarah realize that their time has finally come, and they were meant to be together?

Her Devoted Hero (Book 2)

When one of her co-workers is murdered and it looks like Kenna might be the next one in the killer’s crosshairs, Dex is determined to keep her safe. But with a target on her back, it’s really hard to keep a shield over her heart.

Rating: Narration: B; Content: D/C

This audiobook consists of instalments one and two in Caitlyn O’Leary’s Black Dawn series of romantic suspense stories featuring the Black Dawn Navy SEAL team. I’m a fan of the genre and am always on the lookout for new titles to listen to, plus Aiden Snow is a very experienced narrator, so I thought I’d give these stories a try. In the end, I found Her Devoted Hero to be the more enjoyable of the two; the story was more interesting and the romance a little better developed, while Her Steadfast Hero suffered from what I call “novella-itis” in that it felt rushed and everything – plot, characterisation and romance –were very superficial.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Defending Morgan (Mountain Mercenaries #3) by Susan Stoker

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Dispatched to the Dominican Republic to rescue a kidnapped child, former Navy SEAL Archer “Arrow” Kane makes a startling discovery: another hostage—Morgan Byrd, a very beautiful and very well-known missing person who disappeared off the streets of Atlanta a year ago. She’s brave, resilient, and unbroken. All Arrow wants to know is why she ended up in a shack in Santo Domingo. All he feels is the desire to protect.

Morgan is done being the victim and is determined to find out who hates her so much that they want her gone—but not dead. Until then, she has Arrow, an alpha stranger who’s offering a warm and safe place to hide. But as the passion between them flares, so does the fear that whoever took Morgan will do anything to get her back. For Arrow, protecting this woman with a mysterious enemy is the most dangerous mission of his life. And it’s worth every beat of his heart.

Rating: D+

Susan Stoker is a popular and prolific author of romantic suspense novels and has written several long-running series in the genre.  I recently listened to an audiobook of one of her titles, and wasn’t wowed by it; I’d failed to realise it was the last book (of nine) in a series, but I wasn’t lost so much as I’d clearly missed out on some important details regarding the central couple, whose relationship had been building since book one.  So I thought I’d give the author another try, and picked up Defending Morgan when it came up for review.  I knew it was part of a series – it’s book three of Mountain Mercenaries – but the series factor wasn’t the cause of the problems I had with it.  I was able to follow the story and action, but it’s slow, there isn’t enough plot to fill a full-length novel, the characters are bland, the romance is limp and much of the dialogue is wordy, repetitive, and unrealistic.

The story opens in media res as a three man team comprised of Archer Kane (aka Arrow – geddit?), Black and Ball (yes, these guys might not be in the military any more, but they still have to have nicknames) effects the rescue of a little girl called Nina, who was kidnapped and removed from the US by her father.  The men get a surprise when they discover Nina isn’t alone; a young woman Arrow recognises as Morgan Byrd – who has been missing for around a year – is with her.  There’s no time to ask questions; the men get Morgan and Nina away, but decide it’ll be safer for them to split up and make their way to the safe house in two groups – Black and Ball will take Nina and Morgan will travel with Arrow.

After just a few pages, we’re told that Arrow feels some sort of deep connection to Morgan –

She was different from all the other women he’d saved over the years. It was as if he could sense her determination. He was proud of her… He also felt more protective towards this woman than anyone else he’d rescued.

The first third of the book deals with the rescue and Arrow and Morgan making their way to the safe house,  but even though they have a couple of run-ins with her captors, it’s pretty stodgy going. It’s mostly Arrow going all ga-ga over Morgan and thinking about how amazing she is to have borne what she’s gone through and how much he wants to protect her, in similar vein to the passage I quoted above.  The author makes it clear, very subtly, that Morgan was repeatedly raped, and it’s clear Arrow knows it, too, so I suppose it’s in his favour that he doesn’t start with the mental lusting; instead barely a page goes by without him thinking or telling her how incredible she is.

Once the group are back together, they manage to get Morgan – who has no passport or papers – out of the Dominican Republic and back into the US without any problem, and then set about working out who had her kidnapped and was paying to have her kept there indefinitely.

And that’s basically the plot.  We get cameos by the heroes and heroines of the previous books, various scenes with the team of heroes-in-waiting, and a backstory for the mysterious Rex, who set up the Mountain Mercenaries (a group of former military guys who are sent in to rescue women and children in precarious circumstances around the world) after his wife disappeared.  (I’m betting his will be the final book in the set.)  But the plot is tissue-paper thin, and as in the first third, most of the rest of the book is devoted to Arrow telling Morgan how wonderful she is and saying stuff like this:

“I saw a woman who was scared out of her skull, but wasn’t afraid to stick up for a small child who needed her.  I saw a woman who had been through hell, but somehow the goodness in her still shone from every pore… Even before I knew who you were, and what your story was, I knew you were special.”

“Just by your presence, you’ve made this apartment more of a home than it’s been since I moved in.  You’ve filled it with your energy and goodness.”

Jeez.  Pass the bucket.

Thankfully, therapy is part of Morgan’s recovery.  She’s attracted to Arrow, but worried that she’ll never be able to have sex with him – a valid concern given what happened to her.  But guess what?  Arrow isn’t worried.

“My dick isn’t going to fall off if we don’t make love.  We can get creative if you aren’t comfortable with penetration.  And I can always masturbate.”

Wow.  He always knows exactly the right thing to say, huh?

The search for the person behind Morgan’s kidnap goes pretty much nowhere until the villain reveals themselves and OMG, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the sheer awfulness of their internal monologue.

After two books, I think I can say, categorically, that this author isn’t for me.  There’s no romance, no suspense, page after page of sappy sentimentalism and I just can’t buy all these big, tough alpha guys giving each other relationship advice.  Arrow pretty much never calls Morgan by name, re-christening her ‘beautiful’, and when one of the previous heroines came out with this:

“If he wants to protect me by not letting me watch the news and by doing his best not to talk about the missions he goes on with his friends, I’m okay with that because it means he loves me.”

I almost dropped my Kindle.  Heroines in romantic suspense novels are generally not damsels in distress who wilt at the first sign of trouble; they’re supposed to be as capable, clever and tough as their heroes and able to rescue themselves (and him) when the necessity arises.  But I read that, and thought I’d gone through a wormhole and back to the 1970s.

There are plenty of four and five star reviews for Defending Morgan on Goodreads, so clearly the author has a dedicated fan-base, and if you’ve enjoyed her books before, this might work for you.  But I found it slow, corny, and boring – and I can’t recommend it.

International Player by Louise Bay (audiobook) – Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld and Shane East

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Being labelled a player never stopped me from being successful with women. Until I met Truly Harbury. Truly was the first girl who ever turned me down. The first female friend I ever had. And she might just be the first woman with whom I ever fall in love.

When an emergency means she needs my help running her family’s charity, I’m happy to introduce her to the glitz and glamour of the London business world – taking her to dinners, coaching her through speeches, zipping up the sexy evening gown I helped her pick out. The more time we spend together, the more I want to convince her I’m not a man to avoid, that we’re not as unsuited as she believes.

She sees herself as the book-reading, science-loving introvert while I’m the dangerous, outgoing charmer. She thinks I love parties and people whereas she prefers pajamas and takeout. What she doesn’t realize is that I like everything about her – the way her smile lights up a room, how her curves light up my imagination, and especially the way her lips taste when coated with tequila.

She’s the first woman with whom I ever fell in love. I just need to know if she could ever love me, too.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – D

*sigh* International Player is another of those books that reminded me why I don’t read or listen to all that many contemporary romances.  The plot is pretty much a repeat of all the books by this and similar authors (you know the ones); predictable, clichéd and revolving around the fact that the leads NEVER HAVE A FUCKING CONVERSATION ABOUT THEIR RELATIONSHIP.  I only picked it up because the narrators are excellent – and they’re the only reason I finished it.

Truly Harbury has had a crush on her brother-in-law’s best friend Noah for years.  They were good mates before he left London to work in New York, but haven’t really kept in touch (which is weird, if they were such great friends) and she doesn’t know he’s back in England until her twin sister Abigail – with whom Truly runs the family’s charitable foundation – tells her.

Noah is, of course, sex-on-a-stick, and Truly keeps telling herself not to let her crush become a ‘thing’. Noah is a player and not at all the settling-down type – but when Abigail has pregnancy complications which mean she’s going to be confined to bed for the next five months, Noah is the ideal solution to the problem of how Truly is going to do all the schmoozing necessary to keep the donations rolling in at the foundation.  She’s very much a back-room girl while Abigail has been the one to do all the presentations and attend all the glitzy parties – Truly is an introvert who has panic attacks at the mere thought of all that.

So Truly and Noah do the Pygmalion thing as he helps her with her presentations and her wardrobe, and it’s all fine until she comes to the conclusion that the only way to tamp down her crush and get Noah out of her system is to – you guessed it – have lots of no-strings sex with him.  Yeah,  because that always works out SO well.  Even though she comes up with a list of rules like “I don’t want to hear about your other women” (he doesn’t have any) and “we only shag by appointment”, which Noah thinks are a bit weird, he’s thinking with his small brain by this point and completely prepared to go with the flow.

But as this goes on, he realises that the friendship side of their relationship – which he’d valued highly – has disappeared, and he can’t work out what’s going on and why Truly is so reluctant to spend any time with him out of bed.  Of course, they don’t TALK about any of this and things come to a head when Truly decides she has to end things because the whole casual sex thing hasn’t worked (what a surprise) and she has to get out before she falls any more deeply in love with him.

I found myself actively disliking her by this point.  She knows Noah has never been one for serious relationships in the past and judges him completely based on that, choosing to ignore the fact that he’s a decent guy with his heart in the right place who obviously cares about her and wants her for more than what happens between them in bed.  She ends things without giving him any say in the matter simply because she’s convinced he’ll get tired of her soon.  Because it’s all about her and her need to protect her heart and sod the guy who’s propped her up for the last five months and who she used to think of as her best friend.

I know International Player isn’t typical of all contemporary romances, but it’s typical of a huge and incredibly popular chunk of the market at the moment.  I have nothing against the sort of fluff this aspires to be, but even fluff needs to be well-written, the characters need to be likeable and their motivations need to make sense – and this just isn’t the case here.  I liked Noah well enough, but Truly was immature and selfish and I just wanted her to go away and for Noah to find someone who could appreciate him.

Thankfully, because this audio is part of the Audible Romance Package, I didn’t buy or use a credit on it – if I had, it would be going straight back.  Saskia Maarleveld and Shane East are terrific performers, but even they can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear like this one, and I cringed at some of the dialogue they had to utter.  Kudos to them for being able to do it and not sound as though they had their tongues in their cheeks, but that’s their job and they do it very well.  All the things you’d expect from such experienced performers – pacing, enunciation, characterisation and differentiation – are good, they inject the right amount of expression into their performances, and the love scenes are delivered unselfconsciously and with conviction, but that’s not enough to make for a good listen when those performances are tied to such a weak and uninspiring story.

There are better examples of this type of book out there. Unless you absolutely HAVE to listen to every single thing Shane East and/or Saskia Maarleveld has ever recorded, go and find one of those instead.

 

Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1) by Marie Force

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Derek Eagan, the dashing Duke of Westwood, is well aware of his looming deadline. But weary of tiresome debutantes, he seeks a respite at his country home in Essex—and encounters a man digging on his property. Except he’s not a man. He’s a very lovely woman. Who suddenly faints at his feet.

Catherine McCabe’s disdain for the aristocracy has already led her to flee an arranged marriage with a boorish Viscount. The last thing she wants is to be waylaid in a Duke’s home. Yet, she is compelled to stay by the handsome, thoughtful man who introduces himself as the Duke’s estate manager.

Derek realizes two things immediately: he is captivated by her delicate beauty, and to figure out what she was up to, Catherine must not know he is the Duke. But as they fall passionately in love, Derek’s lie spins out of control. Will their bond survive his deception, not to mention the scorned Viscount’s pursuit? Most important, can Catherine fall in love all over again—this time with the Duke?

Rating: D

Marie Force is a very well-known and popular writer of romantic suspense and contemporary romance novels, and is now turning her hand to writing historical romance.  Based on this first foray into the genre, I’m afraid I have to say that she should stick to writing what she knows best, because Duchess by Deception is simply awful; it’s based on a flawed premise and is full of more really tired clichés than you can shake a bundle of sticks at.

Derek, Duke of Westwood, came into his title at the tender age of six following the death of his parents in a carriage accident.  He has grown into his role and is a dedicated young man who manages his responsibilities admirably and is genuinely concerned for the welfare of all those who depend on him – even moreso as his thirtieth birthday approaches.  Because, you see, some ancestor or other put a stipulation in his will that the holders of the title MUST be married by the age of thirty, or they will forfeit it and the dukedom will pass to the next heir.  And Derek, with just a week or so go to before his thirtieth birthday,  hasn’t yet found a woman he wants to marry.  The new crop of debutantes each Season are more vacuous than the last, (and don’t get me started on the sexism inherent in statements like this – “Is there one among them who cares about anything other than her hair or her gown or her slippers?”) – and while he isn’t necessarily holding out for a love match, he does want a wife with whom he can hold intelligent conversations and share affectionate companionship.

Okay, so now let’s rewind.  Derek must marry by his thirtieth birthday or abdicate his title. Er, nope.  British inheritance law doesn’t work like that. It does not allow for a peer to make any stipulations of this sort as to how his title progresses; a title is not a possession and thus is not something that can be bequeathed or have conditions attached to it.  For instance, the Queen doesn’t have a say in who succeeds her (although in very, very exceptional circumstances, I daresay she could, which would involve all sorts of constitutional upheaval and acts of Parliament) and as far as I know, this goes for the peerage as well. So the novel’s plot is based on a completely erroneous premise, which, in my book, is enough to sink it without trace.

Moving on.

Derek, being the conscientious young man he is, is determined to do his duty and find a wife by his birthday, especially as his current heir is his father’s brother – Derek’s uncle – who is a grasping, dastardly individual who has always wanted the title for himself (he and Derek’s father were twins and Anthony was born second) because he deserved it.  It was he who engineered the accident that killed Derek’s parents (this isn’t a spoiler, as it’s revealed in the first chapter) and he still chafes that Derek wasn’t with them, as he was supposed to have been – and so his evil plot to become the Duke was foiled.  Can I get a ‘MUAHAHAHAHA’? And just in case we aren’t clear about Anthony’s ambitions, his mistress is there to hit readers over the head with a tea-tray:

“You ponder the fate of your nephew and the duchy you covet.”

Anthony raised an imperious brow.  “It is rather impertinent for (of?) you to speak so boldly of things that are none of your concern.”

Seriously?  I wonder if Ms. Force has read any historical romance since the 1980s.

Anyway.  While travelling back to his estate, Derek comes across a filthy boy in shoddy clothing digging in a field.  Wondering why there is a filthy boy in shoddy clothing digging in one of his fields, Derek stops to ask questions, the boy bolts, Derek catches him, the boy passes out – but not before his cap falls off to reveal long dark tresses… and lo! ‘tis the heroine in disguise.   Arrived at his ancestral pile, Derek’s protective instincts are on high alert, and even though the young woman is dirty and smelly, he unaccountably wants to care for her, crawl into bed next to her and “hold her until the fever broke…”  So he does. (After she’s had a bath, natch.)

When she awakens and is told she’s at the Duke of Westwood’s estate, the young woman – Catherine – is immediately fearful and makes clear her dislike of peers of the realm, so Derek decides not to tell her he’s a duke, but instead introduces himself as the estate manager because he wants to know more about her.  But that has to be put on hold while they get back into bed for spurious reasons and cuddling and flirting ensues.  She’s just woken from a fever, they don’t know each other,  they’ve barely said two words to each other and yet she comes up with things like:

“How do you expect me to sleep with a big, rutting beast in my bed?”

To which he responds:

“Have no fear, my dear lady. Your shrewishness has caused my ‘thing’ to wither and die… I can assure you that you’re entirely safe from my fornicating tendencies”

And then she wonders – what, exactly, was that tingle between her legs?

Jesus H. Christ on a cracker. We’re 11% into the book by this point, by the way.

In a nutshell.  Catherine is running from the slobbery old bloke she’s supposed to marry and doesn’t want anything to do with the aristocracy. Two days after their first meeting, she and Derek are sucking face and then shagging (and joy of joys, she gets to say “It will never fit!”) and at the 30% mark, they’re running off to Gretna Green to get married, presumably so he can marry her without revealing his true identity, which is dumb, but no dumber than the other dumb stuff in this dumb book.

No prizes for guessing what happens next.

The writing is stilted and often unintentionally funny (see quotes above) – not what I’d expect from an experienced author – and the characters are barely two dimensional.  Given Ms. Force is known for writing steamy sex scenes, the ones in this book are dull and there is zero chemistry between the leads.  There’s a secondary romance that also takes off like a rocket, between Derek’s cousin (Anthony’s son) and Catherine’s younger sister, and to call the villainous Anthony ‘cartoonish’ is, frankly, to insult cartoon villains the world over.

I’ve said enough for you to realise that you should give this book a wide berth – unless you’re a masochist or just want a good laugh at the terrible dialogue.  If you’ve never read Marie Force before, do yourself a favour and read the excellent Five Years Gone, or one of her romantic suspense titles.  I hope she’s not going to stop writing those, because in spite of its lovely cover and less-used setting of 1902 (which is largely irrelevant to the story anyway),  Duchess by Deception is terrible.

Fade to Black (Krewe of Hunters #24) by Heather Graham (audiobook) – Narrated by Luke Daniels

fade to black

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Where dreams go to die…

Starring in a cult TV show was a blessing for Marnie Davante, especially now that her former fame could support her future dream of starting a children’s theater. So she’ll work the convention circuit. But then a costar is brazenly murdered in front of her. With a killer who vanishes into thin air with seemingly inhuman skill, and strange events plaguing Marnie, she feels she can’t even trust her own senses.

Although his dear departed parents were famous actors, PI Bryan McFadden is about as far from Hollywood as you can get. The former military man is reluctant to get involved in such a bizarre case, but it quickly becomes obvious that Marnie is in grave danger, and he is compelled to help. It’s unclear if the killer is an obsessed fan or something more sinister. Could the show’s cast be cursed? How can Bryan keep Marnie safe when it becomes apparent there’s a force determined to make this her final curtain call?

Rating: Narration – B : Content – D+

While Fade to Black is billed as (wait for it!) twenty-fourth in Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series, there is (fortunately) no need to have read or listened to any of the others, as the novel is basically a standalone. I’ve been on a bit of a romantic suspense kick lately and the synopsis – a story of murder involving cast members of a cult TV show – sounded interesting, so I requested a review copy, hoping for a suspenseful, steamy listen with complex characters and some high-stakes action.

Sigh. You guessed it. I got pretty much the opposite. No romance to speak of – just a couple of very short, almost fade to black (see what I did there? :P) sex scenes – stereotypical characters and a plot as exciting as watching grass grow. Fortunately however, the narration by Luke Daniels was engaging enough to keep me listening, although I really wish he’d been given better material to work with.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.